Will a Spouse's Bad Credit Hurt My Score?

I married someone with bad credit. Will it affect my credit? How does that work?

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Will my spouses bad credit affect my credit score
Bill's Answer: Answered by Bills.com Staff

Thank you for your question about how your credit rating is affected by your spouse's bad credit.

Accounts are Reported to Cardholder's Credit Report

Do not worry about your personal credit score going bad because of your spouse's bad credit score. The only time your credit would be reported jointly would be if you applied for joint credit in the future. Even then a credit report would still identify those credit items that you were solely responsible for and those that your partner was responsible for.

Co-borrower's are Jointly Responsible

You will each continue to have your own credit file. If you apply for loans/credit as an individual, they will only look at your credit record. If you apply jointly for a loan as co-borrowers, they will look at both your reports, but they would do the same thing if you were not married and applying for a joint loan.

Generally speaking, simply marrying a person with a poor credit history will not damage the spouse's credit. The only way that I can foresee your credit being affected by your spouse's poor credit history is if you added yourself as an authorized user on any of your spouse's accounts with less-than-perfect payment histories. If you're added to any of your partner's accounts with that have delinquent payment histories, these accounts could appear on your credit report as well, thereby damaging your credit score.

Having a Co-signer Can Help Build Credit Score

On the other hand, you may be able to help improve your spouse's credit score by adding him/her as an authorized user on some of your healthy credit card accounts, or by co-signing on a small loan with them, such as an unsecured personal loan. You can use your good credit to help you establish new credit lines, which should have a positive influence on your partner's credit score.

Risks of Co-signing

Co-signing on a loan is not something I normally recommend, because of the risks that the co-signer takes. Before anyone agrees to co-sign on a loan, please read all about co-signing for a loan.

You and your spouse will find a great Bills.com article describing ways to improve/build credit entitled Credit Building From Scratch. If you seek a home loan, read How to Apply for a Mortgage When a Spouse Has Bad Credit.

If you would like to find out more about credit, credit scoring, and ways to improve your credit, I also encourage you to visit the Credit Solutions and Resources page at Bills.com.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

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Comments (103)


Candace B.
Jacksonville, FL  |  September 12, 2012
Hi there. I have a question. I'm engaged to be married in Nov of this year. Here's the thing: I'm planning to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy this month (Sept 2012). The thing is my fiance is in the process of building a house. To help with this process, he is acquiring an FHA (I believe this is right) loan. Now, I am NOT on any of the paperwork for the house or anything, but I do want to know will me filing affect him? As of right now, we're scared that we're going to have to put the wedding off till after the house is built?
Bills.com
September 19, 2012
I do not see how a chapter 7 or 13 you file in September, before your November marriage, can have an impact on what I surmise is either an FHA construction loan, or an FHA 203K loan. Typically, FHA construction loans close before construction begins. If the loan closes before the November marriage then I cannot foresee circumstances where the lender would have a reason to ask about, or be given notice of your bankruptcy.

If the loan closes after the wedding and you live in a community property state, then the lender may express a concern about your bankruptcy, even though you are not a borrower. However, that should not scuttle the loan if, as you mentioned, you are not the borrower, but the borrower's spouse.

I suggest that your fiance ask a direct question to his loan officer, so he hears straight from his lender whether or not there is a potential problem with your filing for BK.
Tina P.
Brooklyn, NY  |  April 04, 2012
My husband and I moved into a new home in 2000. We went through a new home owners program that required us to do two mortgages (don't ask). Unfortunately, at the time my credit was too bad to do the loan jointly, however, when I received the payment booklets I filled out information such as my SS# and I can't remember what else in the payment voucher book and voila!, my name is on the second mortgage.

Now my husband and I are filing for divorce, can I get this mortgage removed from my credit?
Bills.com
April 04, 2012
Please see the Bills.com resource How to Remove a Name From a Joint Mortgage, which discusses the issue you raised in your message.
Will P.
Roanoke, VA  |  April 03, 2012
I recently relocated out of state and forgot to have my bills sent to my current address. In the rush of the move and rush of life, I have completely neglected a few of my financial obligations for the last two months, and I am just now starting to catch up. I recently learned that a student loan of mine has defaulted, and I have several late payments on a few other bills. My fiance is wanting to get married, she has PHENOMENAL credit and the last thing I want to do is ruin her credit. Though I am starting to pick up the pieces, I think it will be quite sometime before I have DECENT credit. What should I do? Please Help me! Thanks!
Bills.com
April 04, 2012
Each person's credit score is based on accounts that are managed in their own name. Your past activities will not affect your fiance, as long as she was not a responsible party to those accounts. You should work on improving your credit. If you feel that a creditor will sue you, then avoid having joint bank accounts.
Bills.com
April 04, 2012
Marriage does not create a "joint credit score." Nor does Spouse A's poor credit history sully Spouse B's pristine credit history or score when they walk down the aisle. Spouse A can have terrible credit for the duration of a marriage while Spouse B's credit score remains high in the clouds.

Focus on paying your new delinquent accounts first — they are likely causing the most damage. Then focus on getting your delinquent student loan rehabilitated.
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Vicky R.
W Carrollton, OH  |  April 23, 2012
It looks like you got the answers you were seeking regarding the effect of your credit on your fiance's credit, so I will tell you what I know about getting that default off of your record. You may already know this, but just in case you don't (!) here goes:

You can probably "rehabilitate" your student loan, which will remove the delinquency from your credit report. I did this. I called my loan servicing company (Great Lakes, Direct Loans . ..), and I told them that I wished to rehab my defaulted student loan. They put me on an affordable payment plan (in my case, $60/month). Once I make that payment, on time, for 9 months in a row, they will reinstate my student loan, putting me back on a typical repayment plan, and the defaulted student loan will be completely removed from my credit report, as if it never happened. And if, by some horrible strike of luck, you are late on a payment, they will STILL work with you!

Unfortunately, making these monthly payments on time for 9 months will not help me to build positive credit on my report, nor will it do anything to make the student loan default look any better before the end of the 9 month period, because this rehab repayment program does NOT show up on my credit report. I will have to wait the 9 months before there will be any effect on my credit record. I wanted to get a car loan, or perhaps a lease on a new apartment, and this student loan default were keeping me from qualifying, I might make use of the following information:

I have a contract/agreement in my possession that which documents my enrollment in the rehabilitation program, and many of the details, such as my monthly payment amount and the date in which my default will be (presumably) removed from my credit record. I would imagine that I could get a letter, if requested, from my student loan servicing company, which stated that thus far, all of my payments have been on time. Another alternative would be to print out my bank statement, showing that I have been making each payment on time. I could also add this information in the comments section on my credit report. This information might be enough to convince a creditor to overlook the default. No guarantees.

I set up auto-pay with my bank, so that my rehab payment would never be late, b/c I, too, was guilty of getting busy and forgetting about it. (I had cancer and was dealing with surgery and chemo, etc, and forgot that my deferment was coming to an end . . . then . . .DEFAULT! OUCH!)

After you have made your final (9th) payment, your student loan will be reinstated and it will go back to a normal status. This means that you will get a new repayment plan. If you are worried about being able to make your payments, there are always deferments and forbearances which can be requested. However, I would recommend the fairly new income based repayment plan. Your monthly payment can actually be as low as $ZERO if your income is low enough. The advantage to this is that you will not "use up" your limited number of forbearances and deferments.

The disadvantage is, of course, that you will still be paying interest, and the government will not pay the interest on the subsidized portion of your loans if you have any.

I was pleasantly surprised at how willing they were to help me to get back on track.
Lilly M.
New York, NY  |  March 31, 2012
My husband has great credit. Before we got married, my mother was in the hospital for months. I took care of her and let everything else go, so mine is pretty bad. I do not want my bad credit to affect his good credit. We have been married for just over a year, so this is the first time we have filed taxes since our wedding. I make quite a bit more money than he does through my regular job. He derives most of his income from a home-based business that I started this past year that he manages now mostly on his own. It has been very successful. We have not incorporated. Because I began it, everything initially was in my name, even though he receive most of the income. Therefore, I received the 1099 from our biggest client. No taxes withheld. I am worried if I file our taxes jointly, my husband's credit will be adversely affected. I am worried if we don't, I am going to owe a lot because the new business appears to be my business, even though he mainly benefits. I am hoping after reading this post that maybe filing jointly wouldn't affect his credit? Thank you very much!
Bills.com
April 01, 2012
Filing taxes jointly will not automatically create a link between your credit score and his credit score. However, if you file jointly and create a tax liability that is not met in a timely matter, then you could face having a tax lien placed on yourself and your husband. This would negatively affect his credit score. I recommend that you speak with a tax professional as to the best way to prepare your tax returns, and set up your business. If you pay all your taxes on time and deal promptly with any tax issues, then you should not have any problems.
Jessica B.
Buffalo, NY  |  February 22, 2012
My husband opend up a business, I did not sign any papers not under my name but the only thing is the business bank account he put it under both names.. I was thinking about removing my self because I don't do anything with it... He does owe a lot off things, they just sent him a letter from a law office and they sent it under both of our names, he owes a company.. What should I do?I'm working on my own plz hel me
Bills.com
February 22, 2012
Go to the bank with your spouse and close the business account and ask him to open account in his name only. Have a heart-to-heart with your spouse and ask how the business is organized: sole proprietorship, partnership, or some form of corporation? Ask if and where your name appears in any of the business' financial records or other noteworthy records.

Take what you learn to a lawyer in your area who has family law experience to learn your liability. Or return here and tell us what you learned.
Heather C.
Clinton Township, MI  |  February 18, 2012
My partner and I have been contemplating when to get married. He had a house he foreclosed on 2 years ago. I have a great credit score but work part time and don't make much. I'm hesitant to get married because of his credit score but then would I be able to include his income?
Bills.com
February 18, 2012
His bad credit does not harm your credit. If you need his income to qualify for a loan, then his bad credit will prevent you from obtaining financing on a joint application. If your income is insufficient to qualify, then you need to wait for his credit to improve, and for there to be enough time to pass after his foreclosure, so lenders will view him favorably.
Amber A.
Beverly Hills, CA  |  February 06, 2012
Hi There! I have a health insurance bill that is currently in collections that I will not pay because it the hospital is double dipping, and the agency is saying that it will not only affect my credit, but it will also damage my husbands? Is this true, will it mess with his or was it just another scare tactic?
Bills.com
February 08, 2012
Did your spouse sign a guarantor agreement when you checked into the hospital? If so, then the collection agency's claim is a fact. If you live in one of the 40 common law family law states, then the claim is much more far-fetched, but not impossible if the medical procedure was non-elective. If you live in a community property state, or a state with a doctrine of necessaries law, then the claim is plausible.

I realize you want a simple yes or no answer. The law does not always work that way, especially for questions like yours.
Kevin V.
Pembroke Pines, FL  |  January 31, 2012
Quick question. I'm having my brother co-sign on an auto loan, will the finance company only look at his credit or do they combine mine and is somehow?
Bills.com
January 31, 2012
The underwriter will most likely pull the credit reports on both co-signers.
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Kevin V.
Pembroke Pines, FL  |  January 31, 2012
Thank you.
Carol C.
Staten Island, NY  |  January 11, 2012
My husband is an authorized user on 1 account of mine and I on 1 of his. My credit is better than his and continues to improve and I suspect that his is about to decline even further. Is removing him from authorized user on my account and myself on his account enough to save my credit or is it too late or do I need to do anything else???? We don't have any joint credit card accounts.
Bills.com
January 11, 2012
You are asking about what is called piggybacking in the credit report business. Click on the hyperlink I just mentioned to learn more about how a status change in an account can harm or help the credit score of an authorized user.
Emmie M.
Tampa, FL  |  January 03, 2012
My husband's credit is not good and he is making payments on money he owes. We do not have joint accounts and I just recently added myself to his car insurance, that is the ONLY thing that both our name is on. Does that make me eligible for the credit people to come after me for money? I did not think of this before, but it was cheaper for us to have both cars insured together, so i went for it. Now I am thinking that it might not have been a good idea? Thanks so much!
Bills.com
January 03, 2012
Being listed on a debtor's insurance does not make you financially or legally responsible for the debtor's liabilities. However, being married to a debtor can, in community property states, make the community's assets at risk. If your spouse is in formal payment agreements with his creditors, he is not at risk for a lawsuit that could lead to a judgment, followed by a wage garnishment or bank levy.

If he is sued by anyone, you took the proper step to protect yourself by keeping separate bank accounts. Your wages will be off-limits, should a judgment against him be obtained.
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Emmie M.
Tampa, FL  |  January 03, 2012
That's what I needed to know, thank you :)
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